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Karen Slade

Radio station manager Karen E. Slade was born on October 18, 1955 in Cleveland, Ohio to Violette Crawford and Charles Slade. In 1977, Slade earned her B.S. degree in telecommunications from Kent State University, where she was a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. She went on to obtain her M.B.A. degree from Pepperdine University in 1991.

Upon graduation from Kent State University, Slade was hired as an account executive at Xerox Corporation in Cleveland, Ohio. For the next decade, she worked in various positions for Xerox, including as a marketing consultant, project manager and dealer sales manager. In 1988, Slade was promoted to a regional sales manager in Atlanta, Georgia. Then, in 1989, she returned to Los Angeles, California to work as vice president and general manager of KJLH, the radio station owned by R&B artist Stevie Wonder. As general manager, Slade led programming and sales as well as the station’s efforts to address local and national issues in the African American community. Under her leadership, KJLH Radio received the distinguished George Foster Peabody Award and the NAACP Image Award.

Slade has been honored by the California Legislative Black Caucus Foundation and the Black Business Association, and received the Phenomenal Woman Award from California State University, Northridge. Radio Inc. magazine named Slade one of the 25 most influential African Americans in radio. She served on the board of the Los Angeles Urban League from 1989 to 1995, and has been a member of the Black Media Network and the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters since 1989.

Karen Slade was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on July 28, 2014.

Accession Number

A2014.213

Sex

Female

Interview Date

7/28/2014

Last Name

Slade

Maker Category
Marital Status

Single

Middle Name

Eileen

Schools

Moses Cleaveland Elementary School

Robert H Jamison School

John F Kennedy High School

Pepperdine University

Kent State University

First Name

Karen

Birth City, State, Country

Cleveland

HM ID

SLA03

State

Ohio

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Birth Date

10/18/1955

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Los Angeles

Country

United States

Short Description

Radio station manager Karen Slade (1955 - ) was the vice president and general manager of Stevie Wonder’s KJLH radio station in Los Angeles, California.

Employment

Taxi Productions, Inc.

Xerox Corporation

KJLH Radio

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Karen Slade's Interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Karen Slade lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Karen Slade describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Karen Slade remembers her maternal grandfather's occupation

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Karen Slade talks about her maternal grandparents' life in Cleveland

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Karen Slade describes her mother as a young adult

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Karen Slade describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Karen Slade describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Karen Slade remembers the Lee-Miles neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Karen Slade describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Karen Slade recalls her extracurricular activities

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Karen Slade describes her favorite subjects in school

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Karen Slade remembers her favorite teachers

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Karen Slade recalls her maternal grandmother's influence on her academics

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Karen Slade talks about her high school activities

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Karen Slade remembers the music of her youth

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Karen Slade recalls her decision to attend Kent State University in Kent, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Karen Slade talks about her decision to major in telecommunications

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Karen Slade remembers Arsenio Hall and Steve Harvey

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Karen Slade describes her radio internships

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Karen Slade recalls her college extracurricular activities

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Karen Slade talks about working at the Xerox Corporation

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Karen Slade remembers moving to Los Angeles, California

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Karen Slade talks about her mentors at the Xerox Corporation

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Karen Slade remembers transitioning to radio broadcasting

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Karen Slade describes the origins of the call letters at KJLH Radio

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Karen Slade recalls her work at KJLH Radio in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Karen Slade talks about KJLH Radio's format

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Karen Slade describes the radio market competition in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Karen Slade recalls upgrading KJLH Radio's signal

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Karen Slade talks about the ratings system for radio broadcasting

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Karen Slade describes local disk jockeys at KJLH Radio

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Karen Slade talks about the community leaders of Los Angeles, California

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Karen Slade recalls her station's coverage of the Rodney King riots

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Karen Slade remembers winning a George Foster Peabody Award

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Karen Slade talks about LAPD violence against minorities

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Karen Slade describes her work as manager of KJLH Radio

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Karen Slade recalls the creation of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Karen Slade talks about KJLH Radio's identity as a black owned station

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Karen Slade remembers KJLH Radio's involvement with Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Karen Slade talks about the future of KJLH Radio

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Karen Slade describes her hopes for the future

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Karen Slade reflects upon her life

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Karen Slade talks about black owned radio stations

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Karen Slade reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Karen Slade remembers influential coworkers at KJLH Radio in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Karen Slade describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Karen Slade talks about her network of coworkers and friends

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Karen Slade describes how she would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$4

DAStory

7$4

DATitle
Karen Slade talks about her decision to major in telecommunications
Karen Slade describes her work as manager of KJLH Radio
Transcript
Did you have any idea that you could make a living as a mathematician?$$You know at that time I didn't, I thought you could either be a teacher or you could be a nurse. I mean I had a really limited scope on what I could do and I knew I wasn't ready for marriage and family and I wasn't going to college [at Kent State University, Kent, Ohio] to get a husband, I was going to figure out how--what I was going to do with the rest of my life; so I remember watching--I must have been home for a break and I saw Dorothy Fuldheim, that's a name of the past. She was a female news anchor in Cleveland [Ohio] and I said I can do that, all she's doing is talking, I can do that, I can talk (laugher), so that was, you know, in my mind's eye I could do that, so that's when I declared a major in journalism. Well at--even though it was broadcast journalism at the time it was called telecommunications, it was before the word broadcast journalism, but you studied television, radio, print, which were the only platforms then. And I joined the Family Tree, the Family Tree was a production company--college production company. It had a public access, cable access television program and you cycled through all the jobs, so you started with the, I believe you started with the lighting and then the audio for sound and as you, I guess matriculated at some point you did the interviewing of the guests and I was lucky enough to interview [HistoryMaker] Angela Davis, which was big at the time and she came down with her brother who played for the Cleveland Browns, he was a good looking guy.$$Ben Davis, right?$$Ben Davis, oh, he was a good looking guy and subsequently I, I--Ben and I worked together at Xerox [Xerox Corporation], small world. Let's see, [HistoryMaker] Julian Bond, Angela Davis (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Did you know Fania Davis, the sister, the other sister?$$No, I never met the other sister.$$I know she spoke on her behalf when she was in, in prison, you know. Fania would go--she looked just like her pretty much, yeah.$$No, well I met the other brother [Reginald Davis]. I can't think of the other brother's name. I think he may have been at Xerox too. But, so, but what I determined at that time was I could not be on camera. I was terrible. I got nervous. I talked with my hands, which you see I'm consciously trying to hold them, hold them down, but when I was in college and interviewing I would talk with my hands and I would make gestures and I was so demonstrative it was distracting, so when I looked back and even though you're college kids you're there to learn. When I looked back I wasn't comfortable with what I saw, or how I sounded, I was so critical, but then I cycled through and we produced some shows and I, I liked that, you directed some shows, I liked that even more, so I--there were so many other aspects that you could--if this was your field you could just find what field you were comfortable. So where I initially thought I wanted to be in front of the camera and be a news anchor, I determined that that was not for me (laughter). So I ended up, from there I ended up going to Xerox and, and got into sales.$So does this, does the radio station's, I guess, community stance mirror the, the, the, I guess the, the outlook of Stevie Wonder, the, the owner?$$I'd say yes. I don't know anyone else that would commit the level of resources to their community that Steve does. I like to tell people I'm a capitalist and I usually say that right before people ask me for something (laughter) because I want them to understand that I'm really here you know, to run a business and it has to be successful, I've got to meet payroll, I've got to cover my expenses. It's got to be a profitable asset or there's no reason for the owner to keep it. Of course the owner is Steve and he is a philanthropist and he is a really good guy, so he would give, give away stuff and I'm trying to say, no, no. I remember we got into a discussion with Don Cornelius of 'Soul Train,' they were changing channels or something, changing stations and he's like, "Well you should just tell the people what station they can find it on," and da, da, da, da, da. And I said, "I will if you pay for advertising, right, you pay for advertising I'll tell you" (laughter). "Do you know I'm friends with Stevie," and da, da, da, da, da. And I was like, "Stevie's a good guy, I'm sure you are his friend, but this is his business and if you truly care about him you won't take advantage, you'll pay for advertisement." The next thing I know he gets Steve on the phone, I'm like--my boss is on the phone (laughter) and Don Cornelius is on the phone and I'm fighting to get money for the station so I held my own, so I said, "Steve he's got to spend money, that's how we make a living." "Well give him a break Karen [HistoryMaker Karen Slade]." "Okay, Mr. Cornelius I'll give you a break, what's your budget?" Now this is, I'm a little nervous because I'm playing hardball, right, but I want them to understand that this is a business and you can't just take advantage because it's owned by a fabulous philanthropist, this is his asset and it's got to make money for him to do with as he pleases, so I think I got two thousand dollars out of him. It wasn't a lot but it was a victory you know, 'cause Steve allowed me to do what I needed to do, and Don you know, he accepted it, so that's just one of the stories that I've had over the years. But I always try to put the business in the best light, so KJLH [KJLH Radio, Los Angeles, California], I don't think it's run like most companies, or especially most radio stations because it's a profit and loss, it's a commercial business, but we have an owner that has a heart that is sympathetic and has empathy for the community, so in that light we try to do worthwhile things and make good business sense. Like we do feeding for the homeless, we do all kinds of community related events, so we're very attached to the community and I think that is good business to support those that support you. The line you have to draw is, is the economics of it; what's the true value, what's the cost and can you afford it and what's the return.